More than half of marketers, according to a new study, are unaware of Federal Trade Commission guidelines dealing with required disclosure of sponsored posts and other paid relationships in regards to influencer marketing. That’s an astounding number, especially when you consider another point from the report that says 30% of influencers have been specifically asked by marketers to hide the sponsorship from the audience.
It’s not as if these are new issues. Disclosure of paid relationships was something my colleagues and I who were on the forefront of blogger review programs back in the mid-2000s made it one of the biggest points to iron out right at the beginning of things, as all of these best-practices were being hashed out. Eventually many of those best-practices were adopted industry-wide and some made their way into the FTC’s official guidelines.
There are two logical conclusions as to why, in 2017, we’re still having this conversation:
One: It’s willful ignorance. If they say they didn’t know about these regulations they feel they can’t be held responsible for following them or not following them. That’s not going to work, though. Every 16 year old new driver who hasn’t come to a full and complete stop at a sign and been pulled over knows that ignorance of the law is no excuse. Plus, “I didn’t know” won’t go very far when they find they’ve gotten their clients and their agency into a serious repetitional crisis.
Two: They simply were never taught. That’s almost as big of a problem as the first possibility since it means, to go back to my earlier example, these kids are being given the keys to the car without any supervision or instruction. This would be the direct result of a trend that I’ve been bumping up against in my job search, which is that the older generation is out of the daily loop and kids with little to no experience who are “good at Snapchat” or whatever are managing programs on their own.
If I’m a department head reading this study, priority one for me is to make sure my entire team, both up and down, is up to speed on exactly what the FTC requires for endorsements and other influencer programs. Those aren’t just suggestions, they’re federal guidelines that should be followed. Anyone who isn’t following them is in clear violation and should be educated as to what’s required and the implications, especially for their own career, of not doing so.